Posted on: 23 March 2015Share
Surveys show that more than half of all Americans are allergic to at least one thing. Allergies account for millions of doctor's office and hospital visits every year, and they amount to about $18 billion in healthcare spending annually. With those numbers, it's no wonder that doctors, researchers, and patients are looking for out-of-the-box answers to the growing allergy problem. Reducing the number of people suffering from allergies could have a significant impact on healthcare costs and overall health in the U.S. If you've been wondering if there are any new ideas on the horizon for preventing, treating, or managing allergies, take a look at these three new and different ideas for dealing with allergies.
Prevent Peanut Allergies With… Peanuts?
"No peanut butter for babies." With food allergies on the rise, most parents have been told over and over again to delay introducing highly allergenic foods for one, two, or even three years. This is especially true of peanuts – which makes sense, because peanut allergies can be particularly nasty. However, the latest information suggests that not only is it unnecessary to avoid peanut-containing snacks, some babies may actually benefit from early introduction to peanut butter. What's going on?
British researchers suggest that the caution to stay away from peanuts may have actually contributed to the spike in peanut allergies. A study of children determined to be at risk for allergies showed that the children who were given peanut snacks three times a week starting at four months were actually less likely to develop an allergy than children who avoided peanuts until after the age of five. It's possible that the same may be true for other allergenic foods like eggs, tree nuts, or soy. Pediatric dietary recommendations may soon be changed to recommend introducing peanuts and other allergenic foods early for children who are at high risk of allergies, as long as these dietary changes are monitored by allergy specialists.
Can Parasites Cure Allergies?
Conventional wisdom holds that allergies cannot be cured, only managed. However, that's not enough for some allergy sufferers who are willing to go to great lengths to ditch their inhalers and antihistamines. Their answer? Helminthic therapy – which could also be called "parasitic worm therapy".
The theory behind the treatment is based on the idea that people in societies that have high rates of allergy sufferers are just too clean. Simply put, allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to normally benign substances, like pollen or pet dander. Proponents of helminthic therapy note that the incidence of allergies is considerably lower in nations where parasitic infection is widespread and common. They theorize that immune systems in Western societies, where people shower several times a day and carry hand sanitizer in their pockets, are not getting enough to do, so they overcompensate by reacting to everyday substances. They further speculate that exposure to the parasites that immune systems evolved to fight in the first place distracts the immune system from the allergen and refocuses it on the parasite, effectively curing the allergy.
Some people claim that helminthic therapy, in addition to curing run-of-the-mill allergies and asthma, may also be useful in fighting off autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and even multiple sclerosis. So far, the evidence for this type of therapy is mostly anecdotal, but it's interesting enough to be worthy of closer research.
Will Edible Technology Help You Avoid Allergens?
People with food allergies know that finding prepackaged foods that don't contain allergens can often be a challenge. Ditto for foods served by restaurants. Labels and menus don't always tell the whole story. If only there were some way to easily identify all the ingredients in a given dish. Soon, there may be a way, with the help of edible RFID tags.
The concept is potentially a game changer. Edible RFID tags (presumably made to match the taste of whatever food they're included in) can be stocked with everything that you could possibly want to know about your food. How many calories does it have? What are the ingredients? Where was it grown? How far has it traveled? The RFID tags would contain all this information, and you could read it with the help of a smart plate designed to read the tags and relay the information. The concept is still in the early stages, but it could be revolutionary for dieters and allergy sufferers alike.
As fascinating as these allergy treatments are, allergy sufferers should proceed with caution. Before you begin changing your or your child's diet, exposing yourself to parasites, or eating electronic tracking devices, consult an allergy specialist to discuss the best methods of treating and managing your allergy.